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Series / Scrabble

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It's the television version of everybody's favorite game!
Charlie Tuna: A nine-letter word, the clue is, it's often hung on TV Tropes.
Studio Audience: LAMPSHADE!
Charlie: It's the crossword game you've played all your life, but never quite like this!
Audience: SCRABBLE!

Based on the board game of the same name, this NBC Game Show hosted by Chuck Woolery, famous for Wheel of Fortune and Love Connection, featured contestants trying to navigate a Crossword Puzzle-like board, forming words and winning cash.

Unlike the board game, however, the contestants did not form words themselves; instead, the words were pre-generated and as on Wheel the contestants had to provide the correct letters and guess the word. To do this, players were given a vague, punny clue (see above quote for example), then they would draw from a rack of "tiles", each representing a letter from the word (along with three "Stoppers", which didn't appear in the word), choose one of two letters to place within the word, and try to guess the word once the letter's position was revealed. A Stopper would end the player's turn.

Another difference from the board game was that letters had no value in themselves. The pink and blue Bonus Spaces on the board could be worth bonus cash to a player who correctly solved the word immediately after placing a letter on a colored square. The first player to solve three words... all together now... won the game...

...and would go on to the Sprint round, where they tried to solve four words fast than their opponent (the returning champion in later years) by picking one of two letters in the word at a time (no Stoppers in this half of the game). Beginning in 1986, whoever won the Scrabble Sprint would attempt then a Bonus Sprint, where they had to guess two words in 10 seconds to win $5,000, increasing by $1,000 each time it wasn't won.

The series originally ran from 1984 to 1990, then returned briefly in 1993 as part of an hour-long block with Scattergories.

Building on the letter "O", six letters in the word, and the clue is: You'll spend hours with them.

  • All or Nothing: The Bonus Sprint. If you don't solve both words in under 10 seconds, you don't win anything extra for the day.
  • The Announcer: Originally Jay Stewart, with Charlie Tuna replacing him in fall 1985 (after having alternated with Stewart since the start of the year) so Stewart could concentrate on sister show Sale of the Century. Rod Roddy held this role on the 1984 pilot.
  • April Fools' Day: On the April Fool's Day 1989 episode, Chuck walked out and recited his Wheel of Fortune opening spiel, complete with "Once you buy a prize, it's yours to keep." and the Wheel puzzle reveal chimes.
  • Audience Participation: The studio audience yelled out the word described by the announcer at the start of the show, and also counted along with Chuck when he paid out a bonus during Crossword.
  • Berserk Button: Don't solve a puzzle if there's a pink or blue square open and only one Stopper left, unless that Stopper is the only letter in front of you. Especially in the '93 series, when those squares were the only way the Bonus Sprint increased in value.
  • Big Win Sirens: The stock "NBC sirens" were heard for $20,000, $40,000, Bonus Sprint, and Tournament wins.
  • Bonus Round: The Scrabble Sprint (and later, the Bonus Sprint). In both rounds, buzzing in with a wrong or late answer applies a 10-second penalty to the player (which, in Bonus Sprint, ends the round right away).
  • Bonus Space: Blue and pink squares, which awarded $500 and $1,000 respectively. Their locations and colors matched up to the bonus spaces on the original game board: blue for Double/Triple Letter, pink for Double/Triple Word. The bonus was awarded if any of the following happened:
    • A player solved the word immediately after dropping a letter into a bonus square.
    • A player hit a bonus square and guessed incorrectly, and the opponent immediately solved the word without drawing any more tiles.
    • A new word was built on a letter in a bonus square, and the player with starting control immediately solved it.
    • A letter fell into a bonus square during Speedword, and a player buzzed in and solved it before the next letter came up.
  • Cap: The highest possible money amount anyone could win during the Crossword round is $3,500 (three pink-square solves for $1,000 each, in addition to the base $500 for winning the game).
  • Celebrity Edition: Scrabble would occasionally feature stars from NBC television series, and even featured two Game Show Host editions—the first of which saw Double Dare (1986) host Marc Summers filling in as host during rounds in which Chuck became a contestant.note  During these episodes, each celebrity played on behalf of a different, randomly selected home viewer.
  • The Chew Toy:
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The Bonus Squares.
    • During the July 1984 to March 1985 episodes with the original Scrabble Sprint format, players chose between the blue and pink envelopes.
  • Companion Cube: Literally, the game board was a giant revolving cube, with two sides for Crossword/Sprint rounds, and two sides that were basic Scrabble boards with neon. On one 1989 episode, the game board started sliding back during a round. Once the technicians fixed it, Chuck started talking to the board as if he were giving commands to a dog: "Come on back! Stay! Stay right there! Stay! Sit!"
  • Consolation Prize: For anyone who lost without any bonus cash.
  • A Day in the Limelight: During a special 1987 week where various game show hosts (including Jamie Farr, who never actually hosted a full-time game show and was plugged as being host of Double Up, which ended up not selling) played for home viewers, Chuck played several games with Marc Summers filling in as host; in one episode, Chuck won $12,000.
  • Double Entendre: A common source of the show's humor. As mentioned by Chuck:
    Chuck: [Scrabble's writers] always do that. They give you very suggestive clues, and then it's some kind of inane answer—or mundane, anyway.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • For the first 2¼ years, the games straddled: Two new contestants competed in the Crossword Game, with the winner playing the Sprint against the returning champ. Originally, any champ who won five Sprints got a $20,000 bonus; if the champ won another five, he/she got $20,000 more and retired undefeated. In 1985, the bonuses were changed to increase the champ's entire winnings total to $20,000 and $40,000.
    • The bonus squares were for decoration for most of the first three months. Starting in October 1984, $500 was awarded for a correct guess on a blue square, and $1,000 was awarded for pink squares. This and the "Chuck Bucks", which debuted in early '85, were not used for the duration of the Spelling format.
    • For the first seven episodes of the series, the Crossword game added money into a pot for each letter (an element carried over from the pilot). Regular, blue, and pink squares added $25, $50, and $100, respectively, and the winner got all the money in the pot. The Sprint round was worth three times the final total instead of $1,500.
    • Originally, the Sprint round had the challenger pick one of two envelopes (pink or blue), with the champ playing the other packet. In March 1985, this was changed to have them play the same three (later four) words, with the returning champ being ushered into an isolation booth.
    • In the Sprint round, two letters popped up at the start of each word, followed by one more at a time after the player had called both of them. Starting in January 1985, the player would always be presented with two letter choices as long as there were three or more blanks; the unchosen letter of each pair and all the others not yet placed were reshuffled before the next pair came up.
    • Originally, if a champion retired undefeated, another Sprint round would be played with two new contestants to find a replacement champ. This was done only once (July 24, 1984), after Annie McCormick retired undefeated. By the time the show had its second undefeated champ in August '84, this had changed to playing two consecutive Crossword rounds.
    • The short-lived Spelling format brought back the accumulating pot used in the earliest episodes and required Crossword contestants to fill in all the missing letters in a word after buzzing in. Regular, blue, and pink squares respectively added $50, $100, and $200 (later $500) when filled in this manner. The Crossword winner received all the money in the pot.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The final week of the original version had multiple references to it being the end of the series. Chuck gave a speech just before the final bonus round, and the credits had the cast and crew coming onstage to join Chuck and the final champion to say goodbye.
    • While the 1993 revival didn't directly acknowledge its final week, there was a contestant plug on one of the final shows, and Chuck hinted that the end was very near.
    Chuck: That's something you don't see too often. Just start asking for contestants, because, ah... I mean, get on the phone, because that'll load up real quick... and that probably won't be up much longer...
  • Epic Fail: Thanks to a combination of nerves and bad guesses, one contestant ran up a Sprint time of 87.0 seconds. And this was during the three-word Sprint era. Watch the train wreck here.
  • Freudian Slip: "All righty, let's recrap the scores... recap them, actually."
  • Fun with Homophones: Clues frequently involved homophonic words. One example is demonstrated under the "Take That!" trope listed below.
  • Game Show Host: Chuck Woolery. Steve Edwards hosted a 1990 pilot for a proposed syndicated run via Group W/Westinghouse.
  • Grand Finale: The 1990 finale ended with Chuck thanking the staff and crew for the past six years, followed by a $6,000 Sprint win. The champ, George Sealy, came back to defend his title when the series returned in 1993.
  • Halloween Special: With the contestants dressed in costume. This would usually be the basis for the one-phrase introductions Charlie Tuna would use at the beginning of each round, such as "He's a real Bozo; she'll move her tail for you," for a man dressed as a clown and a woman dressed as a cat.
  • Home Game: One was released by Selchow & Righter in 1987, called TV Scrabble. A board game of a game show of a board game.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes: Many over the course of both versions, generally resulting in Speedword being played before either contestant got two words.
    • Starting with the format overhaul in September 1986, viewers were invited to send in words and clues to be used in the opening sequence. The viewer whose word was chosen each day received a Scrabble T-shirt.
  • In Name Only: The mechanics of the game show had very little to do with the board game itself.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • While the odds of drawing valid tiles is the Crossword portion generally favored the contestant, the odds become less favorable as valid letters get drawn and played.
    • Sometimes, pivotal letters never shown up in a nearly completed word. While this often occurs during the Scrabble Sprint (see the Terry Ray example below under "Take That!"), this rarely happens during Crossword. One such example from 1993: "It means a lot to me", which is played out until the board reads □ILLION. One contestant guesses "MILLION", whereas the other guesses "BILLION", neither of which is the proper solution. The missing letter: J, which is never drawn.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: The show's writers occasionally implemented some bizarre logic in how clues related to their corresponding words, which usually flummoxed Chuck and the contestants. Some examples:
    • "They come with a code." SNIFFLES, which Chuck only understands after someone off-stage speaks as if they're experiencing nasal congestion.
    • "You can't take it with you." FURNACE. Once solved, Chuck demands the producer give an explanation behind that puzzle's logic. The producer responds with "When you move, you take your tables..."
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • For the first year of the show's initial run, the two Sprint contestants were each played with different sets of words during the same round. The challenger picked from an envelope (blue or pink) from which to play, giving the champion the one not chosen.
    • Afterwards, the show began having the challenger and the champion play to determine who could solve the same four (initially three) words faster. Initially, both players took their turns during the same segment of the show. The champion went into an offstage Sound Proof Booth while the challenger played and set a time, and the champion then returned to the stage and tried to beat that time.
    • The "same set of words" format saw later refinement to fit Scrabble's eventual, permanent self-contained format. The first Crossword winner on an episode established a time before the second Crossword was played, and the winner of that round tried to beat that time.
  • Opening Narration: See above.
    • When champions were first introduced at the top of the show:
      "This is [Contestant's name here, drumroll plays]! In just a few moments he/she could win $20,000note  today on Scrabble!" (Used during the "straddling" format if he/she was going for a fifth or 10th win.)
    • Later during the show's run:
      "[Champion, drumroll plays] has already won [money amount]. He/She's back to try to make it again to the Bonus Sprint, and a chance at a jackpot of [money amount], today on Scrabble!"
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: The contestants' nametags. With rare exceptions (such as during the show's two Game Show Host Weeks), every Crossword game was played between one male and one female contestant.
    • One contestant, named Andre François Jean DuPuy, had both pink and blue tags for his first three names.
  • Progressive Jackpot: Used in the Bonus Sprint; from 1986 to 1990 (including the Edwards pilot), $5,000 base, $1,000 added per day not won. For the '93 series, $1,000 base, increased every time someone solved on a pink or blue square in the Crossword game ($500 for blue, $1,000 for pink).
  • Rule of Three: Primarily used during the front game: Three stoppers per word; solve three words to win. Also applied to Scrabble Sprint until the 1986 format overhaul, where both players played three words (originally two different sets, later they played the same set); of course, the best time won.
  • Rules Spiel:
    • "We're gonna play Scrabble until someone gets three words right; that player goes on to the Scrabble Sprint for a chance at a bonus worth [today's pot size]. Take a look at the board as we set up for our first game...When you think you know the word, hit your buzzer, and don't forget the pink and blue bonus squares; they're worth money."
    • In the Sprint: "Don't forget to hit the plunger, that's what stops the clock. There are no Stoppers in any of these words; all the letters are good."
  • Pilot: Taped in March 1984 with Rod Roddy announcing, a lot of different graphics, and an odd format (involving cash in the Crossword game, and the player with the best Sprint time at the end of the week getting a $25,000 bonus).
  • Scrabble Babble: Sorry, averted. However, the show often used proper names, which are forbidden in the traditional game.
    • Played straight on very infrequent occasions, such as one Crossword game in which the clue for the first word (9 letters) was: "A lot of people don't know it, but this word is it." The answer: MISPELLED (it should have two S's).
  • Shout-Out: During the first Tournament of Champions in February 1985, Chuck said that they borrowed the glass suitcase from Sale of the Century, another Reg Grundy series that aired on NBC.
  • Speed Round: Speedword, played at three different times - when one player hit the third Stopper in a word and the opponent had no guess, after a 2-2 tie (starting in early 1985), and whenever time ran short (during the second format).
    • Also applies to the Scrabble Sprint, in which the contestant who correctly guesses three (later four) words faster wins.
    • The Bonus Sprint rounds also qualify.
  • Stage Money: For most of the original series, Chuck would walk to the contestants and hand out bonus money if they answered correctly immediately after hitting a pink or blue square. The bills, referred to as "Chuck Bucks," were printed with his picture and colored to match the squares. (For a while when the bonus rules were first instituted, Chuck paid all the bonuses off with actual $100 bills). As Chuck explains:
    Chuck: ...I'm using what they're calling "Chuck Bucks" here. These are regular dollars, but they're pink for the 1,000, blue for the 500—a little sickening, I know. We don't like to use regular money because it goes through three or four different people's hands, and [...] you come up missing 100, you don't know who to point to, and it's not fair to them. And, it's kind of funny, these are redeemable at any Chuck Store nation to nation.
    • In 1993, the money just went into a pot for the Sprint.
  • Stock Footage: From 1984 to 1986, each episode began with a shot of the set from the 1984 pilot. The set in the pilot had a faster chase light configuration than the one for the series. After the opening spiel, the shot from the current episode, with host Chuck Woolery making his entrance, was then shown. Between March 28 and August 11, 1986, the studio audience began appearing on camera.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Whenever a Stopper was encountered, the animated tile would be shown blowing into bits, accompanied by a synth-y "explosion" noise. The stop sign that indicated the Stopper would also appear and pulsate.
  • Take That!:
    Chuck: I kept telling 'em, "Look, find somebody else to do it, it'll be a huge hit. Look what happened to Wheel!"
    • Clue: "Still crazy after all these years". Answer: KHOMEINI
    • Contestant Terry Ray has some fun wordplay with Chuck in this Sprint round.
      Chuck: We were looking for WIMPS.note 
      Terry: WIMPS? And I may qualify as that, I don't know.
      Chuck: Well, now, I wouldn't say that.
      • Before going to his make-up word, Terry takes a jab at a rather energetic fitness guru...
      Chuck: You ever do exercises and stuff like that? What's that guy's name? Richard Simmons, yeah.
      Terry: Now, he's a wimp. See?
      (audience laughs)
      Chuck: I can't win!
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Whenever he read a really silly or suggestive clue, Chuck had no reservations in chastising the writing staff. Writer Jan Heininger and producer Gary Johnson were the most frequent targets of Chuck's derision.
    • Viewer-submitted clues for the show's opening rarely received this response. One clue in particular from 1988—"a song you sing in your Chevy"note —actually got groans from the audience.